Roberts creates change of pace
Katie Roberts helped lead Bulls to one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 18:09
Katie Roberts came to UB ready for a change.
Compared to her small hometown of Homerville, Ohio, Buffalo seems humungous. Her love of country music stars like Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan wasn’t so common at UB, where hip-hop rules many students’ iPods.
But the largest difference she encountered came in the women’s soccer team’s wins column.
Buffalo women’s soccer won the fewest games in program history when Roberts was a senior in high school. The team had only one win and 12 goals scored all season. One year later, the Bulls won a Mid-American Conference tournament game and Roberts led the 12-win team with seven goals.
It was one of the largest single-season turnarounds in NCAA soccer history, according to Roberts.
Roberts loved the idea of helping to turn around a struggling team. She believed in the coaching staff, players and direction of the program enough to commit to UB.
Roberts has been making immediate impacts on her soccer teams since the first time she stepped onto the pitch. In her first year playing soccer, at 4 years old, she scored eight goals in one game.
“Katie is capable of special things when Katie is active and finding the ball,” said women’s soccer head coach Michael Thomas. “She changes the game and has that extra little bit of vision that a lot of college players don’t have.”
Roberts is now a junior forward for the Bulls (3-2-2). She has seen both triumph and last-minute defeat in her two years at UB.
“[I’ve learned] you can’t take anything lightly,” Roberts said. “You always have to go out and give it your all and good things will happen.”
Her competitive attitude derives from her upbringing. Roberts’ grandfather was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals organization and her older brother, Timmy, made the baseball team at West Virginia University.
As a child, Roberts played baseball on the same team as Timmy. But her father didn’t want her to play baseball once the level of play got higher, so she tried softball instead. She played for only a year because she “got bored.”
Even on different teams, competition within Roberts’ household continued. Roberts once broke her toe when seeking revenge after Timmy stole the ball in a game of one-on-one basketball. Other times, they would put on football shoulder pads in their house and ram into each other like a pair of NFL linebackers.
Hostility between the siblings extended into school.
“In elementary school, we would do the 40-yard dash for one of our fitness things and my times were always really close to his,” Roberts said. “My gym teacher would always compare us even though he was a year older, and he would get really mad about that stuff and come home and beat me up.”
The daily competitions still haven’t stopped for Roberts. Coach Thomas makes it clear to his players that anybody can come in and steal a starting job, even if players let up for just one practice. He has developed a point system to promote competition among the athletes at practice.
Roberts excelled in the system, which gave her the opportunity to make an impact during Buffalo’s historic 2011 season. She enjoys the friendly competition and wants to inspire younger players, just as the juniors and seniors inspired her back then.
“I think the seniors really helped,” Roberts said of her freshman season. “They weren’t intimidating at all, and they were very encouraging, both on and off the field, so that helped as I wasn’t so nervous and I could just play how I was used to.”
Although the offense has gotten off to a slow start this season, Roberts has made her presence known. She leads the team with 21 shots and 10 on net, including the game-winning goal against St. Bonaventure.
For Roberts and the Bulls, a successful 2013 season would be a MAC Championship. She chose Buffalo to turn around a struggling program and nothing would complete the transformation better than a title.